Three weeks after its transponders went dark, Israeli satellite operator Spacecom has declared its Amos 5 satellite in orbit over Africa a total loss, BroadbandTVNews reports.
The satellite is worth $160 million to $190 million, Haaretz reported.
The operator is filing a $158 million insurance claim after failing to make contact with the 4-year old satellite.
Total loss of contact with a satellite is a highly uncommon event, industry experts say, according to Haaretz.
“According to the manufacturer, the most likely reason for the malfunction is a complete failure of the power supply system, as a result of a malfunction inside or from an object hitting a part of the power supply system or the associated wiring,” Spacecom said.
About a third of revenue from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-listed satellite operator come from Amos 5, with customers concentrated in African markets through contracts with local operators such as Orange.
Amos 5 was manufactured by Russian company JSC Information Satellite Systems. The staellite is “fully de-energised,” the manufacturer said.
Spacecom told investors the failure will have minimal effects on the company’s value, JewishBusinessNews reported.
Spacecom signed a $1 billion contract with Facebook for the Amos 6 satellite, due to be launched in February, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. It will take about three years to launch a replacement satellite for Amos 5, according to capital market expert estimates.
Amos 5 has had problems since launch. In 2013 a faulty satellite’s propulsion system led insurers to place an exclusion on any future claims with similar issues, according to BroadbandTV.
Spacecom says it’s confident it was not the propulsion that finished the satellite off, but it’s not sure what did. “According to optical observation, the satellite was seen in orbit on its course spinning around at a pace typical for satellites in which systems are totally malfunctioning.”
Launched in 2011, Amos 5 is in geostationary orbit over Africa, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. Its coverage extended over Africa, Europe and the Middle East. In Africa, it plays a major role in the continent’s emerging satellite services market, according to Haaretz.
Geostationary satellites are used for telecommunications because the signal transmitter and receiver can be fixed to the same spot in the sky, according to GCSEScience. The satellite is always exactly above the same point, about 35,000 kilometers (21,747 miles) above the Earth’s surface. Telecommunications satellites are used to transmit telephone, radio and TV signals.
The satellite was launched from Kazakhstan in December 2011. Amos 5 was Spacecom’s third space satellite.
Amos-5 was at 65-percent capacity when it lost contact in November. The company said at the time it was working to find alternative capacity for customers.
“There are several options for transferring customers and we are closely working with customers vis a vis other satellite operators to ensure minimal interruption,” the company said, according to Spacenews. “We are working to find solutions for each and every client.”
Spacecom and Paris-based Eutelsat announced a partnership in November 2014 to jointly market each other’s capacity at 16 degrees east – where the Eutelsat 16A is located – and Amos-5 next door at 17 degrees east, Spacenews reported.
The two companies said at the time that their combined business from the two locations totaled “over 100 free-to-air African and international channels that can be received by standard 80-centimeter dishes in a vast footprint covering over 30 million TV homes located notably in Francophone Africa and extending to Ghana and Nigeria.”
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